Many have erroneously sought proof of the false doctrine of infant baptism in a parallel between it and the Old Testament practice of circumcision. According to them, the sign of the Old Covenant was a circumcised baby. It was circumcision that identified each newborn as an Israelite and member of the covenant community of God. Thus, these proponents of false doctrine mistakenly conclude that the sign of the New Covenant is a baptized baby. In their opinion, it is now baptism that identifies newborns as members of the church, the new covenant community of God.
Unfortunately, many have allowed this abuse of the truth to cause them to refuse the truth. They’ve moved to the opposite extreme, arguing against the false doctrine of infant baptism on the erroneous grounds that Old Testament circumcision has no scriptural parallel with New Testament baptism.
In my opinion, the scriptural parallel between the mark of the Old Covenant (circumcision) and the New Covenant (baptism) is indisputable. The problem with those at the two extremes—those who teach infant baptism on the grounds that it parallels with circumcision and those who argue against it on the grounds that there is no parallel between circumcision and baptism—is their failure to understand the transition from the Old Testament’s physical type to the New Testament’s spiritual truth.
The fallacy of the arguments of extremists on both ends of the infant baptism debate is easily found in the New Testament’s teaching that Old Testament types and shadows are physical illustrations of the spiritual truths taught in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 10:1-6). Whereas physical circumcision was performed eight days after physical birth to introduce the physical seed of Abraham into the earthly and temporal community of Israel, baptism, which serves as circumcision’s obvious spiritual counterpart in the New Testament, is to be performed after spiritual birth to introduce the spiritual seed of Abraham into the spiritual and eternal community of the church.
To suggest, as do the defenders of infant baptism, that newborn children must be baptized in order to be introduced into the covenant community of God, is to relegate the spiritual truth of New Testament baptism into the shadow of circumcision, which is nothing more than its Old Testament type. It is not physical newborns, but spiritual newborns—those who have been born again—to whom the spiritual truth of New Testament baptism is to be applied. To apply it to those born “of natural descent, of human decision [and] a husband's will” rather than to those “born of God” is to miss the spiritual substance of the New Testament truth and to live in the shade of its Old Testament type (John 1:13; Colossians 2:16-17).
The New Testament plainly teaches us that circumcision has been superseded by believer’s baptism, not infant baptism. Indeed, according to the New Testament, circumcision is “nothing” and of “no avail” (1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6). The only circumcision that counts today is spiritual, not physical. It is not “outward in the flesh,” but “inward,” a “circumcision of the heart” (Romans 2:28-29). It is not by the “letter,” but by the “spirit” that the true children of God are known today.
According to the Apostle Paul, believer’s baptism is a sign of “the circumcision of Christ,” not of the surgical cutting away of a small piece of flesh by human hands but of the supernatural removal of the whole “body of the sins of the flesh” from the human heart (Colossians 2:11-12). Whereas the former is a mere work of the hands of man, the latter is a miraculous “operation of God.”
Although there are other false doctrines as fatal to the soul as infant baptism, which gives a false assurance of salvation to scores of unbelievers whose parents or guardians had them baptized as babies, there are none more monstrous, since the flip-side of this false doctrine teaches the eternal damnation of all who die unbaptized in infancy or childhood. Granted, the Church of Rome, due to its unwillingness to consign unbaptized infants a place among the damned in Hell, conjured up “Limbo,” a fanciful halfway house of “mildest punishment” somewhere between God’s Heaven and the Lake of Fire. Still, no fabricated Limbo can provide a facelift to this repulsive doctrine that eternally banishes all who die in childhood innocence from the presence of God simply because they’ve not be dabbed, dripped, sprinkled or smeared with water in some empty church ritual.
The innocence of a child is one of the few fragrant flowers to be found in this fallen world. Unfortunately, it quickly withers at the age of accountability.
One of the biblical definitions of sin is to know to do good and to do it not (James 4:17). There comes a time in all of our lives when we know to do good, but willfully and intentionally choose to do wrong. It is at that moment, when we deliberately and knowingly decide to do wrong (what we want) rather than right (what God wants) that we become guilty before God and accountable to Him. Although this age of accountability eventually comes to us all, it comes to some sooner than others. It is not something that we all celebrate on our twelfth birthday.
With the age of accountability comes the loss of our childhood innocence. Once our childhood innocence is lost, we are confronted with the peril of our lost soul, a peril that puts us in desperate need of a Saviour. It is then, and not until, that the Spirit of God begins to convict us of our sin and convince us of our need of Christ. There is no need to concern ourselves over the fragrant buds of childhood innocence which God picks to adorn His eternal Heaven. “The kingdom of Heaven,” as Our Lord assured us, “belongs to little children” (Matthew 19:13-14). No infant or child who dies in childhood innocence can be kept from Christ’s eternal embrace, regardless of whether or not they’ve been baptized or christened.